10 January 2013

Uganda: Mulago Oxygen Plant Up and Running

National Referral management has cut its oxygen spend after installing an oxygen processing plant. Oxygen is running in the wards, theatres. It is also being stored in two tanks and cylinders as buffer.

Edward Kataaha, senior hospital Engineer who supervised the project says the plant can produce up to 60 cubic meters of oxygen per hour, which is about nine of the big cylinders it has been buying.

China Sinopharm International Corporation was contracted to build the plant at US$1.08 million (Shs 2.9 billion), a big undertaking from the hospital's 2012/2013 capital development budget of 5.02 billion.

Dr. Baterana Byarugaba ,Mulago executive director , said the cost of setting up the plant is almost equivalent to the cost of importing oxygen for about three to four years

He said the hospital would spend between Shs 700 to 800 million annually on oxygen imports.

Sinopharm subcontracted BHL, a local company to maintain the plant till 2020. Fan Ping, BHL general manager visited the plant with a technician to monitor its operation and also maintenance today.

He told the Independent that the plant is operating according to the plan and producing more oxygen than the hospital consumes on a daily basis.

The oxygen flow is between 2 to 3 litres per minute for in-patient rooms and 10 litres per minute for anesthesia and respirator machines.

The hospital in the past was using a rental oxygen tank from British Oxygen Company, Kenya (BOC) and cylinders for back up. The tank is refilled after two weeks.

With this tank, the hospital was restricted by distance; about 25 metres to the medical building, 50 metre distance to public buildings and the supply chain of the cylinders from delivery, transport to the wards and application all were likely avenues for delays.

The air we breathe contains approximately 21% oxygen, 78 % nitrogen and 1% other gases. In the plant, compressed room air passes through a regenerative, absorbent material, the molecular sieve that separates the oxygen from the nitrogen, a process called PSA. The result is a flow of high- purity European Pharmacopeia (EP) and US (USP) standard oxygen for clinical applications.

The PSA process uses air only as raw material, and electricity to pump the air through the filters. The process removes approximately one third of oxygen from air.

However, load shedding which is characteristic of Uganda's energy sector might frustrate the plant's efficiency. Each PSA generator uses between 70 to 80 KW and together consume about 150 KW.

The plant was expected to be commissioned last November. Enock Kusasira, Mulago Public relations officer says a new date has not been set.

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